So do you think that this photo depicts a rather large horse with a rather small person? Well, you would be right, but those of you who have read past editions of these letters probably recognize this lump of a horse as one of the ones I rescued from slaughter at a young age, one who had been born in the Canadian Premarin business, and thus destined for a very short life. I had somehow got to hear about this program and got in touch with the Pegasus Horse Rescue Organization. They e-mailed me a link to the photos of available horses, and I saw this guy and it seemed to me that he was looking straight at me. Anyway, I thought he needed to come to me, so I made the necessary arrangements. At the last minute Pegasus called me and said they also had two babies whom nobody wanted and so their days were numbered. It happened that one of them had actually been one I had already considered, so, as Pegasus kindly offered to pay the transportation if I would pay the adoption fee, I said yes, and yes again to the other one, a little filly. Now all three are here, the babies now rising two year olds and the big guy, at three plus, all mine to ride and love.
I had tried to find an Apache word for a name, but, as the word for “horse” in Apache is truly unpronounceable. I settled on a suggestion made by a good friend, and called him Chikala, which means “Little One” in Lakota Sioux. Apparently Chief Crazy Horse had a war pony that was a huge pinto, and that’s what he called him – Chikala. And so here he is, ready to be my friend.
And, unbelievably, spring seems to be here. Not that this means the weather will stay as nice and balmy as it is now, but certainly a lot of the trees and flowers seem to believe it. At Grapevine the daffodils and the iris are poking their heads up, and a lot of the trees are actually budding out. Not so the mesquites, of course – those wily trees never bud out until all chance of a late frost is past – they’re still as thorny and dried-up looking as ever.
The mesquite trees were introduced into our valley many years ago, it is said, in the droppings of cattle brought here from Texas. (Funny how in Arizona bad things are blamed on Texas!! Witness, for instance, that horrible invention, the wire gate – called, in Arizona, a Texas Gate. Perhaps it’s called an Arizona gate in Texas? One old cowboy that worked for us years ago told me, in a slow, Texas type drawl….. “it’s really called a fam’bly gate…. ‘cause it takes the whole fam’bly to close it!” And it sure does!)
But back to the mesquites. The old timers tell us that at the end of the 1800’s the valley was a sea of grass, with not a tree to be seen, but gradually the mesquites took over, and today there are whole thickets of them, as those of you who have helped us gather cattle on the Flats can attest. Many ranchers hate mesquites and actively dig them out – a really difficult job, as their roots evidently go to China. At the same time, that very depth of roots means that even if there is a draught, the mesquites happily suck on some subterranean depths and thrive when everything else shrivels up, so from that point of view, they are my friends. Also, if we have a draught, which we have had all too often in the last 15 years or so, they produce a huge crop of high protein beans (a survival ploy, perhaps?) which the cattle love to eat, and which has often saved us from having to feed expensive hay. So for me, the mesquites can stay – even though they provide handy hiding holes for the bulls, who like to snooze in their shade and duck from under one branch to another when you’re trying to gather them.
And talking of bulls, the time is upon us when we re-introduce these gentlemen to the cow herd. We began this year by putting them in with the team penning heifers a month ahead of the main herd. These gals were not bred last year, and we’re thinking that we’ll give them a head start on the rest of the herd. So this morning’s ride took off into the Lake Pasture to gather the bulls, and move them in with the heifers . It took all day. Now just consider that to move some three hundred cows with calves takes all morning, with some mopping up to do in the afternoon, and now consider that it took all morning to gather six bulls, with two left to be gathered up in the afternoon. As I can’t ride at the moment following some surgery, I sat in my office, and all morning heard angry bellows which advanced and receded, as the bulls played their usual game of hide and seek, fight and run. Finally, about 4 pm, they were all in. Danny said that my favorite, Winston, the son of my pet cow Clementine, became exceedingly flirty as soon as he spied the ladies. Good. That’s his job.
And at the Grapevine, those of you who have been here since the rebuilding following the fire, will be happy to hear that we are planning to put up the trellis to replace the beautiful old oak tree which burnt up. Adam and I had debated the feasibility of building it ourselves, and finally decided to call the builder who had built the new Cook Shack building. He did such a great job, and I’m thinking that with his knowledge and his tools he will be so much quicker and probably have some good ideas about how to build it – important, as I would like to plant some type of vines on it, and experience has taught us that these can get pretty heavy and need good support. I will post photos of the progress, and of the finished product as soon as it happens.
Do some of you remember that at one time a pack rat found its way into what I call my Weed Room where I put my plants for the winter, and which also houses my hot tub? And the havoc it wreaked? And how we caught it and relocated it under a mesquite tree far away? Well, for some time now, dog Tuffy has been most interested in a wall which divides my entry porch and my living room. Indoors, she has lain with her nose glued to the wall, and on being turned out, she runs to the other side of it and scratches and whines. So we knew there had to be another rodent resident somewhere in there. Finally Danny cleared away a whole lot of brush and rosemary branches and lo and behold, found a hole going under the wall and into some subterranean place in which this rat evidently resided. So he set a live trap and we waited. About a day or so later, Tuffy almost had a heart attack coming nose to nose with the object of her desire, and unable to snatch it, as it was in the cage. We managed to drag her indoors, and Danny took the trap away. He set it again, and a couple of days later, we caught the other one – Mr. Rat. (Danny said the other one was the Mrs.) I asked him where he put him. Danny said he went to the same place, a couple of miles away by the Pearce Tank, right by the same hole into which he had tipped Missus. He said she was in there, because the earth was disturbed and evidently someone lived in the hole, unoccupied before. So he tipped the Mister out there – and may they live happily ever after and never find their way to my home, which I do not wish to share! I must say that the one who is the most disappointed with this whole rat hunt is Tuff – the diggings are now filled in with gravel and wire mesh, and a board is placed across so that no new prospective tenant is tempted to try and take up residence.
And now I would like to address something very unpleasant with which I would like you to help, and that is the fate of old horses. I think most people don’t think about what happens to old horses, and in the days of sanity they went to the slaughterhouse. There they were fed and watered until the final day, when they went down a chute, somebody hit them on the head with a stun gun so they were brain dead, their throats were cut and they bled to death. All in all, not too bad an end if you think about it, much nicer than people languishing in hospital beds dying of horrible cancers. I know that for me, given the choice between that and the slaughterhouse, I would take the slaughterhouse any time.
But what has happened now is totally unspeakable. Some do-gooder organization like PETA have pushed through a law that horses cannot be slaughtered in the USA. As a result they are trucked, generally long distances and under bad conditions, to Mexican slaughterhouses, which are far worse – but even worse than that, many are turned out to starve. I just talked with our veterinarian tonight and we discussed these horrible unintended consequences of good intentions. I am sure that people who pushed through this law had the welfare of horses in mind, but they didn’t think it through. The veterinarian told me that the owner of the local livestock auction house in Willcox, who will now not accept horses for sale, says there are loose horses trying to get into his pens, probably for food and water. Isn’t this beyond horrible!
Please, all of you out there, do something about this. Contact your congressman or senator or PETA, and explain how dreadful is the fate to which these beautiful animals are sentenced. How few are lucky enough to die in the place where they work – how many are sentenced to a horrible, lingering death.
At Grapevine we keep our horses until the end. It is an expensive business – I feel we owe it to them, but I also wonder how long we can go on for. I do know this – if we can’t feed them, we will put them down here, humanely, at home, in the place where they worked and were happy. You can’t do less than that. But the horses out there, with nobody to take up their cause, need us to help them. Please – get busy, write to whoever, so that these great animals have a kind end.
On behalf of all the unwanted horses, I thank you.
PS: For Arizona residents, here’s your call to action:
Help Support Horse Rescue Registry Bill
A bill to create a horse rescue registry is nearing a final vote in the House of the Arizona Legislature. HB 2178, equine rescue registry (Rep. Konopnicki) would require the state Department of Agriculture (ADA) to create a registry of horse rescue facilities which would be available to the public at ADA offices and website. The bill would establish standards for equine care and require that facilities are non-profit organizations.
The horse rescue registry bill would help people who are unable to care for their horses obtain information and find an approved, competent equine shelter. To read the Arizona Republic article on HB 2178 click here.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The bill will be voted on by the entire Arizona House soon. Please contact your two Representatives as soon as possible and ask them to Vote YES on HB 2178, equine rescue registry, which would create a public list of horse rescue facilities that meet set standards for care. Let your legislators know that you are a constituent in their district.
To contact your House members click here. You can find out who your legislators are on the same page or go to http://www.vote-smart.org. If you’re outside the Phoenix area, you can call your legislators’ offices toll free at 1-800-352-8404. In the Phoenix area call (602) 926-4221 and ask them to connect you with your legislators. Thank you for forwarding any response you receive from legislators to firstname.lastname@example.org .